Wednesday

20th Nov 2019

Syria to EU: tackle Israel, not Egypt for Middle East peace

  • Damascus mural. Syrian ambassador: 'When people saw the example of Iraq, they wanted stability above all else' (Photo: CharlesFred)

The EU should take firm action against Israeli settlement-building and human rights abuses instead of playing politics in Egypt if it wants to calm tension in the Middle East, Syria's ambassador to the Union has said.

Speaking to EUobserver in Brussels on Wednesday (16 February), Mohamad Ayman Soussan said the main danger of conflict in the region comes from the Arab-Israeli problem not the revolution in Egypt or Tunisia.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

"Our European friends have a responsibility here, because Europe is the principal economic partner of Israel. They have all the means at their disposal to make Israel reconsider its position vis-a-vis international law. Europe must assume this responsibility if it ever intends to take its rightful place in the international order," he explained.

"Where in Europe do you see such a level of brutality against demonstrators? Where do you see roads that can be used only by one kind of people? Israel practices apartheid and the EU assists this everyday through its ongoing relations."

The ambassador added that outside forces - including Syria, the EU and the US - have no rightful say on Egypt's new government.

"We have full confidence in the Egyptian people. They sacrificed almost 500 lives for this revolution and I believe the people of Egypt know very well what they must do ... democracy cannot be a la carte," he said. "One has to treat the people of this region as adults, not as children."

Asked if post-revolutionary Egypt could become hostile toward Israel, he noted that ordinary Egyptians never shared the Mubarak regime's pro-Israeli line. "The peace with Israel was always cold. There is a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. But this was never a real peace," he said.

Mr Soussan did not hide his antipathy toward the Israeli authorities. Asked if there is a risk that Egypt could let arms flow to Hamas in Gaza, he countered: "Was support for the European resistance against the Nazis a crime?"

The ambassador said that EU countries played a negative role in events leading up to the Egyptian and Tunisian upheavals.

"The two regimes which fell were Europe's foremost allies. There was a feeling of discontentment in these two countries about the foreign policy orientation of the two regimes," he said. "I wouldn't go that far [as to blame the EU or the US for the revolutions]. But I would ask, were the Europeans faithful to their values in supporting these regimes?"

Going back further to selected EU countries' support for the US invasion of Iraq, Mr Soussan said the Iraq war put a brake on the reform process in the Arab world.

"After the invasion in 2003, stability became the main priority of all the countries in the region. We did not want to become a second Iraq. When people saw the example of Iraq, they wanted stability above all else. They wanted to know that when they left home in the morning, their country would still be there when they returned at night."

On the internal situation in Syria, the ambassador admitted there is a need for reform and that there is a "small group" which is unhappy with President Bashar al-Assad.

But he pointed to the fact that 50,000 Sunni Muslims peacefully celebrated the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed at a ceremony with the president in Damascus on Tuesday as a sign that there is no uprising on the cards.

On the one hand, the EU embassy in Damascus on Wednesday said it "profoundly regrets" the jailing on spy charges of a 19-year-old blogger called Tal Al-Mallouhi. And EU diplomats in the region say the country's security forces keep down dissent.

But on the other hand, the EU welcomed Damascus' recent decision to end a years-long blockade on Facebook and YouTube. The Union is in advanced negotiations on an Association Agreement with Syria and EU diplomats say that Syrian society is relatively open in terms of free speech and freedom of worship.

Feature

Colonisers speak - 60 years after Congo's independence

Belgium is in the midst of a nationwide reassessment of its colonial past. Under pressure from a younger, more activist, generation and a growing African diaspora, the former colonial power has taken some steps over the past year.

Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

A total of 48 MEPs from GUE/NGL, the Greens and the Socialists have demanded the EU to comply with the democracy clause of the EU-Chile agreement to ensure that Chile respects fundamental rights.

Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark

Bosnia requested an interview with the French ambassador to Sarajevo, after Emmanuel Macron described the country as a "ticking time bomb" and one of the greatest concerns for Europe due to the "problem of returning jihadists".

News in Brief

  1. Estonia working on 'Plan B' for Nato
  2. Report: Hungary gagged EU on Israeli settlers
  3. Polls suggest draw after Johnson vs Corbyn TV duel
  4. EU ambassador to testify in Trump impeachment inquiry
  5. Hungary, Poland block EU conclusions on rule of law
  6. France: wide EU backing for enlargement change
  7. EU Council calls for policy action to protect marine life
  8. ECJ: Poland's judicial independence in doubt

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us